3 Calif. sheriffs say state lawmakers hurting cops’ efforts to improve public safety
The sheriffs addressed a range of topics, including public outreach, fentanyl abuse, and what they consider small penalties for illegal marijuana grows
By Brian Rokos
The Orange County Register
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — The sheriffs of Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties on Saturday hammered away at state lawmakers and other officials who they say have rejected measures that would have promoted public safety.
The setting was the vast Hangar 4 at Chino Airport, where upwards of 700 people — almost all loudly supporting the sheriffs — heard Riverside County’s Chad Bianco, San Bernardino County’s Shannon Dicus and LA County’s Alex Villanueva speak on an improvised stage with airplanes parked in the background.
Nary a catcall was heard, nor were any critical questions read by the moderator, radio host Jennifer Horn, who said none were handed to her by organizers from the LA County Sheriff’s Department. One woman, who after the Tri-County Sheriffs Forum circulated a petition to ban Dominion voting machines, which have falsely been linked to election fraud, said she had submitted a question about the devices.
The sheriffs addressed a range of topics, including their refusal to enforce mask mandates, public outreach, fentanyl abuse, what they consider small penalties for illegal marijuana grows that threaten public safety and their efforts to issue more concealed weapons permits. Within those discussions, the sheriffs many times referenced disappointment with state politicians and, in Villanueva’s case, his running battles with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles City Council and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.
“I need a new Board of Supervisors,” he said.
Metro and the 14 “woke” members of its public safety committee, Villanueva said, do not allow deputies to arrest most troublemakers on the trains.
“What we are missing is political will,” Villanueva said. “We have the answers.”
Dicus and Bianco recalled testifying before the state Assembly Public Safety Committee in March on a proposal to repeal Prop. 47, a law that turned some felonies into misdemeanors. Supporters say the law has reduced the number of people in state prisons who have committed relatively minor crimes, and critics say it has fueled an increase in crime. Bianco said committee members spent most of the hearing scrolling through web pages on their phones instead of listening.
The proposal was rejected soon after the sheriffs left.
Bianco said he doesn’t understand the motivation of the Public Safety Committee members, who he said have rejected other proposals to increase prison time for convictions.
“Ask them,” he said.
“The disrespect across the board is unbelievable,” said Dicus, who encouraged the crowd to not only vote, but also know what they are voting for.
Bianco suggested some in the crowd run for public office.
“Get involved. Get educated. You must vote. If you don’t do it, we get stuck with the people there,” he said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes did not attend. Sgt. Scott Steinle, a department spokesman, said he believes that Barnes was invited but had other commitments. Barnes is running unopposed on the June ballot.
There were no campaign signs at Saturday’s forum, although a few people wore shirts expressing support for Bianco’s candidacy.
Villanueva is running against sheriff’s Capt. Britta Steinbrenner, retired Capt. Matt Rodriguez, Cecil Rhambo, LAX Airport Police Chief and former assistant sheriff; Lt. Eric Strong, Cmdr. Eli Vera and former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.
Bianco is running against retired Capt. Michael Lujan.
Dicus, who was appointed in July, is running against private investigator and retired sheriff’s deputy Clifton Lee Harris.
Near the end, Villanueva took on people who critics used to describe as overly politically correct.
“I think 2022 is going to be a special year. I think it’s going to be a referendum on a national disease that (will go away). Woke-ism is on the ropes. Let’s put it out of its misery,” Villanueva said to applause and cheers.
In the next breath, he added: “But let’s embrace our neighbors that have a different point of view. We need different ideas.”
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